Lost on Kepler 852-b

Lost on Kepler 852-b

Lost on Kepler 852-b (Chapter 3: Contact)

(Pour lire la version française, cliquez ici.)

Thanks to Jonas Büttner (Instagram: @poly4g) for sharing his artwork.


            I’ve always wanted to choose my last thought before death. I always planned for it to be the first time I kissed my wife in an all-night dive bar after we bought cigarettes in a bodega. The dive bar was one of the few places in City Sector 33 that allowed regulars to smoke in a back room after midnight. I thought, at the time, that my wife didn’t like me very much. She looked nervous during dinner, constantly looking away, practically grimacing when I talked, fixing her translucent body suit, and didn’t laugh much at my bad jokes. I thought she was only enduring my poor company for the night because we shared a mutual friend who set us up. I thought, “Yup, here we go again, another woman who’s bored with a mediocre janitor whose only hobby is writing a stupid sci-fi blog. Way out of my league.” But while smoking and admiring her beautiful face in the shadows, her mysterious glances, letting the silence between us build, I felt the flame of courage and thought, “Why not? Worst comes to worst, she denies me, and I move on like I’ve always done before,” and I went in gradually for the kiss. When I was close, her lips parted, her eyes seemed to ignite, then she replied with a wild, unexpected passion, grabbing my hair and pulling me in. We went back to my place and didn’t leave my cramped studio in the Bronx for three days, both of us calling off work. I didn’t even know I had that in me. She awakened a desire that I never thought was possible, something primal that was beyond me, or perhaps hidden deep in an unexplored recess of my soul. And since that moment our lives have been locked, fused, and intertwined.

            But as this horrifying creature slithers and clicks and sucks towards me, on this planet 64 light years from Earth, my mind loses control. Remember when I said I hate insects? Well, this creature is something between a giant praying mantis and a squirming, writhing mass of centipede-like tentacles, slimy sinews, and clicking pincers. It’s like a grotesque, shuddering weeping willow with something metamorphizing or being tortured and trying to escape on the inside. But after the first moment of terror, the certainty that this extraterrestrial abomination is going to kill me (the creature is so massive there is nowhere to run), that it has killed everyone on the ship, I feel a strange separation from my body. A defense mechanism, perhaps, against the horror, against the expectation of having my skin ripped clean off the bone. I suddenly think of the last time my wife made me laugh, the day before the ship crashed on this planet. Concentrating on the memory to prevent my descent into blackness, I mechanically put out the fire, as if someone else is doing it, haul my supplies over my back, then close my eyes as the creature moves over the debris of the ship. I remember I was talking about how excited I was to discover this new planet, to start a new life with her, and my wife gave me one of her mischievous smiles and said,

            “But how excited are you?”

            “Really excited.”

            “No, I mean Walter…tell me exactly how excited. Be specific. Like really excited. Or really really excited?”

            “Hmm, eight reallys excited.”

            “Nooo. Eight reallys? I don’t believe you. You’re only…let me see your eyes, three reallys.”

            “How would you know.”

            “But maybe if I poke you in the armpit you might be four reallys…” and as I started laughing she kept her face serious, squinting her eyes, as she slowly moved her finger towards my armpit.

            “Don’t go in there, your finger might not come out…”

“Oooo. Now I’m curious…” And in the middle of the ship’s greenhouse, while people nearby were picnicking in the miniature bio-sphere, I trapped her finger in my armpit and we tickled each other and rolled around. I know it’s one of those simple, silly things that couples have together, inside jokes that only they understand. But my wife could always make me laugh, no matter where we were, what was happening, and I loved that about her.

The creature-insect is less than twenty feet away. The stench is so overwhelming I taste a hint of it in the back of my throat, a mix between rotten sashimi and skunked beer. My thoughts plummet into darkness and I wonder: what if my wife is somehow still alive? What if she has managed to escape this creature? This thought galvanizes my stupefaction. The insect didn’t react when I put out the fire, nor when I hauled my supplies on my back, and even though there is nowhere to run, the insect seems to be moving haphazardly, without an object. If there is any chance my wife is still out there, I need to survive, I can’t wait here like a sitting a duck. I always promised her I’d be the first one to die…

I fix my sack of supplies more firmly on my shoulder, take a breath, and jump out of the crevice-cave, directly towards the insect. The moment I leave the little cavern in the rubble, the insect-creature shoots a centipede-tentacle towards where I’d been standing. I sprint towards the left edge of the mass, not knowing what will happen, and when I am ten feet away, prepared to tackle into the squirming creature, the thing leaps towards the cave, following its arm, attaching itself to the wreckage.

I keep running into the darkness, away from the spaceship across the field. I can’t believe my luck, but as I turn my head to see if the insect is following me, I trip. A screech (like metal scraping metal) erupts from the creature and I see it shooting towards me, huddling and rapidly slumping over the grass. “This is it,” I think, but the giant insect stops twenty feet away and begins sort of spinning, or gyrating. Gradually, the creature sinks into the ground and disappears.

Slowly, I stand up and walk cautiously to where the insect has burrowed. There’s a giant, circular pit in the ground, the same kind of smooth, abyss-like pit I saw on top of the cliff where my landing pod crashed. Why did it burrow when it was on the verge of killing me?

As if in answer to my question, I hear a Sniff Sniff. Son of a bitch… But as I turn I see, in the light of the four, green moons something that I can only describe as…cute and cuddly. A long, furry creature is trotting on eight, tiny legs towards the pit, sniffing the ground constantly. The thing resembles a basset hound, with floppy ears sweeping the grass. It has a pink snout, with a three-nostril nose at the tip, but no eyes, and a fat, swinging belly. It sniffs the edge of the pit, then moves towards me, the ears flopping up to its nose, as if they are attracted to it by a force. On an impulse, I get on my knees and give it a rub behind the floppy ears as if it is actually a dog. I can’t help myself. I love dogs. And this creature somehow exudes safety and goodness. While I scratch the floppy ears, the creature purrs like a cat and gives me kisses with a long, purple tongue. I see sharp fangs glint in the green moonlight.

The eyeless, purple-tongued basset creature trots back over to the pit, tilts on to its side, and shoots sparkling liquid into the abyss. I think I heard a distant, echoing screech. The basset returns to my side, licks my calf, and trots the direction it came. I decide to follow this cute companion. My instinct tells me that following this animal is my best chance at survival. 

While following this dog-like animal, who I’ve named Bunky, my thoughts return to my wife. Until I find irrevocable evidence that she is dead, I will continue to stay alive and keep searching, fighting against (or running away from) whatever I come across. If I find other members of the ship (or somehow make to the city that was supposed to be under construction by Migration Wave #1) who confirm that she has been killed, then I’ll commit suicide. That’s always been the plan between us…or least, the plan I told her, and which she constantly argued against. 

My wife is 16 years older than me. As we were falling in love, we discussed her dying before me and thinking about how I could survive without her. I wouldn’t want to. I’d kill myself soon after she was gone. I don’t have any friends and in general I don’t like people. So, after this lighthearted discussion on who would die first, I immediately start working like crazy, hardly sleeping, taking X30 stimulants, so that my body would give up before her body and so we could potentially live in luxury and comfort in the present… 

That’s why my wife wanted to have a child. So that when she passed away, I would still have someone to love, something to live for, a piece of her left behind. But when we met she was 41 and only producing fragile eggs that couldn’t hold (she had led a wild and exhausting life between 20-40, she had 2 miscarriages), so we were too late. For weeks she cried against my hairy chest every night in bed, telling me that if I wanted a family, if I wanted a child, to just leave now, to not waste her time. I told her no. There was only her. My love. I didn’t care about a child or a family. I told her that it made no difference to me whether or not we went on adventures just the two of us, or with a child in tow. If anything, a child could hold us back. She didn’t believe me. She saw how I loved dogs and children. She fell into a deep depression.

That’s when I started applying for us travel to Kepler 852-b, as part of the Great Migration wave #2. I figured that if we couldn’t have children, we might as well take advantage of the fact and voyage to a new planet. Secretly, during my breaks at work, I worked relentlessly hard on our application, calling the right people to give us the best chance. Somehow, we were accepted, and when I told my wife she burst into tears of happiness. 

Before being put in deep sleep on the spaceship, I reminded my wife of my pact: if she died before me on this planet, I was following her soon after. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but nor do I believe in a life worth living without her. She said, “No, if I die before you, I want you to find an alien wife on Kepler 852-b. Promise?”

“No.”

While lost in these thoughts, I notice that Bunky and I are approaching a jungle. He slips through the thick foliage. On the other side, in the shards of moonlight, I see a small clearing and a small nest, where Bunky plops down and immediately starts snoring. I guess now I wait, I think, for Bunky to wake up. Surveying my surroundings, I see that there are colorful vines hanging from the trees, violet and orange, and web-like threads connecting the branches and trunks. The moonlight is dim in this enclosure, the shadows seem to contain unspeakable dangers, hidden malice, and I feel uneasy. 

*Crack* *Shkt**Crack**Crack**Shkt**Snap*…something is bushwhacking nearby. I hurriedly pull out my little axe (why didn’t the NASA scientists pack a gun or some sort of projectile?!) Bucky is still in a deep slumber. I nudge his belly with my foot and he grumbles. No help from Bunky. 

The noise is getting louder. It’s approaching. Without thinking, I stupidly yell, “Stop! Who’s there? What’s there?” Silence. I ready myself. At the other end of the clearing the foliage parts, and a man stumbles towards me, a man I know…

“We…we don’t belong…here,” he splutters, as he trips and almost falls. In the moonlight I see that his face is dirty and scratched, his clothes torn, his darting eyes wild, and his mouth drippling spit. “They…they sent us here…to die…how can we…” The contrast between the wreck of the man before me, and the man I knew, is almost too much to bear.

“Captain Premidaire?” The last time I saw this man he was giving a magnificent speech in front of the entire crew of the spaceship, before we all went to our deep-sleep chambers. Preston Premidaire, the leader of Migration #2. He had been clean-cut, perfectly-dressed with glittering badges on his uniform, with a charming smile. He was one of the most respected military generals on Earth.

“Aye, my friend, fancy a wouldayouknow place?”

“A what? Where is everyone else on the ship? What happened?” For a moment the disoriented general seemed to concentrate and he looked at me with grim determination.

“We escaped, there was so much, you have to find the, go now because I won’t abandon the calling to-” he collapses in the clearing and I rush to lift him up. 


Subscribe below…

Perdu sur Kepler 852-b (Chapitre 4: Capitaine Premidaire)

(To read the English version, click here.)

Background artwork by @huleeb (Lucid Dream)


            “Quelque chose nous a frappé dans le ciel. Ou… plus probablement… plusieurs choses. C’était le chaos. Des parties du vaisseau ont explosé. Je ne pouvais pas quitter la chambre du pilote, mais la porte de ma nacelle d’atterrissage d’urgence adjacente s’est ouverte. Instinctivement, j’ai sauté à l’intérieur et me suis agrippé à une poignée, car je savais, d’après le manuel de l’I.M.C., que l’intérieur me protégerait contre la force de l’atterrissage en catastrophe. Il y avait une fenêtre donnant sur la coque. J’ai vu des centaines de corps se frapper contre l’intérieur du vaisseau. Des sections du vaisseau se détachaient…

            Le capitaine Premidaire était affalé contre un arbre, sous un auvent de fortune que j’avais construit avec mon sac de couchage et du fil de fer. Nous nous abritions d’une pluie torrentielle, violette et semblable à du grésil. Premidaire était en train d’avoir un de ses moments de lucidité, qui devenaient de plus en plus rares, alors j’ai essayé de le guider doucement, encore une fois, vers la question à laquelle je désespérais de recevoir une réponse. Je ne pouvais pas lui poser de questions qui s’éloignaient trop du fil de sa pensée, sinon il se dégraderait à nouveau dans son état de confusion marmoréenne. Premidaire devenait de plus en plus fou et je n’avais aucune idée de la façon d’arrêter sa descente dans la folie.

            “Et après que le vaisseau se soit écrasé, que s’est-il passé ?”

            “Des cris. Des cris horribles. Du feu. Ramper dans les décombres. Puis ils sont venus…”

            “Qui est venu ? Vous n’arrêtez pas de dire qu’ils sont venus. La créature insecte-tentacule dont j’ai parlé ? Celui qui creuse des trous ? Cette chose monstrueuse ?” Premidarie a laissé échapper un rire aigu et maniaque. Il avait déjà fait ça auparavant. J’ai grimacé parce que cela signifiait qu’il allait très probablement avoir un de ses épisodes de démence dans dix à quinze secondes. 

            “Ces choses ? Elles aiment le feu. C’est l’équipe de nettoyage.” Il a ri à nouveau, d’un ton plus aigu. “Ils ne sont rien comparés à ce qu’il y a d’autre sur cette planète. Rien. Cette planète se défend. Ces insectes étaient là quand… les autres ont été emmenés, par eux…”

           “Combien de temps depuis le crash ?”

            “Une semaine.”

           “C’est impossible. J’étais seul quand je me suis réveillé. Je serais mort de soif. Vous m’aviez dit deux jours.”

            “Si l’un d’eux vous avait trouvé, inconscient, il aurait pu vous sauver.”

           “Comment ?”

            “Je ne sais pas. Il y a quelque chose dans l’air. Le temps est différent ici. Tout est différent ici. Et ils… ils nous ont envoyés ici pour mourir.” Les pupilles de Premidaire se sont dilatées et ont commencé à trembler. C’était maintenant ou jamais.

            “Qui d’autre a survécu ? Y avait-il des femmes avec vous ? ! L’une d’elles avait-elle…”

            “J’ai tout mis dans la GlobalDataBase avant de quitter la Terre. Ils se souviendront de moi. Ressentir l’existence, plus de force, ils m’ont dit de remplir des questions, de mettre les Nanorobots-Enregiste dans mon cerveau, de me tenir devant la caméra, c’était pour l’histoire, ils pourraient faire une copie, pas la même, mais assez proche, l’artiste doit créer dans l’obscurité, tout est créé à partir de l’obscurité, pour trouver leur lumière s’il y a une chance qu’une autre…”

            J’ai soupiré. Une autre heure de son bavardage. Puis, quand il reviendrait au silence, ou s’endormirait et se réveillerait, j’essaierais à nouveau. J’ai éteint le dispositif d’enregistrement de ma tablette. Dans ma frustration, je me suis détourné du capitaine, qui marmonnait toujours pour lui-même, murmurant maintenant : “Je dois le prendre à nouveau, mais je dois aussi m’enfuir, me sentir désespéré, désespoir plein d’espoir, combattre cela, fuir ou rester, Siana mon amour, je…” Il me semblait que, quelle que soit la maladie dont souffrait Premidaire, il était incapable de distinguer les émotions, les souvenirs ou les abstractions lorsqu’il avait un épisode. C’était comme si son subconscient prenait le dessus sur sa conscience. 

            “Aie !” Une gouttelette de pluie s’est posée sur ma peau, a brûlé et grésillé, laissant une blessure rouge en forme de disque. Les gouttelettes de pluie ici sont souvent toxiques, comme de l’acide. Premidaire le savait et m’a fait construire notre abri lorsque nous avons entendu un grondement dans la nuit et que l’air est devenu lourd d’humidité. Quand Premidaire est lucide et concentré sur une tâche, il est impeccable et efficace. On ne devient pas le capitaine de la deuxième migration humaine sans être extrêmement efficace dans tout ce qu’on fait, ce qui rendait le contraste avec ses grognements incohérents d’autant plus terrifiant à observer. Je me suis tourné de mon côté et j’ai vu la créature basset hound qui dormait encore dans son niche.

            “Walter !” Pendant un instant, j’ai cru que la créature s’était adressée à moi.

            “Quoi !” Le capitaine avait attrapé ma chemise. J’étais choqué : il n’était jamais sorti aussi vite d’une de ses transes. Peut-être son esprit se défendait-il, sachant à quel point notre survie dépendait de sa capacité à me transmettre des informations pertinentes.

            “Il y a… il y a des aliens de type humain sur cette planète. De différents types, races, cultures. Ils savaient que nous venions. Ils nous attendaient. Les machines qui ont repéré cette planète leur ont tout dit sur nous. Certains d’entre eux veulent nous utiliser pour quitter ce monde, d’autres pour survivre. C’est pour ça qu’ils vous ont gardé en vie, pour apprendre sur nous, je ne sais pas quel est leur but, mais leur sophistication…”

            “Ces aliens sont-ils ceux dont vous vous êtes échappé ?”

            “Non. Je me suis échappé d’autres choses. Ces extraterrestres humains ne voulaient pas me prendre. Ils ont dit que j’étais sans espoir. Les particules dans l’air, elles affectent tout le monde à des vitesses différentes et de manières différentes. Les humains plus rapidement qu’eux. Si l’infection atteint un certain point, il est trop tard, il n’y a qu’un seul antidote, et chaque membre de leur groupe a une urgence pour lui par vie.”

            “Par vie ? Que voulez-vous dire par là ?”

            “Je voulais rester avec eux. Ils ne m’ont pas laissé faire.”

            “Ces créatures extraterrestres ont pris des humains et en ont laissé d’autres ? Qui d’autre est resté avec vous ?”

           “Cinquante-sept personnes.”

            “Et ils sont tous morts sauf vous ?”

            “Oui, j’ai vu la moitié d’entre eux mourir, l’autre moitié est partie dans une direction où aucun humain ne pouvait survivre.”

            “Et les humains qui sont restés… qui ont été pris par ces aliens-humains ? Avez-vous vu une femme parmi eux qui…”

            “Elle est juste là ! Vous ne pouvez pas l’emmener ! Vos erreurs vont…”

           “Shhh, quelque chose arrive…” Il y eut un cliquetis et un fracas à travers les vignes et les arbres.

            “Vous n’auriez pas dû venir ici.. Maintenant les particules peuvent vous affecter plus rapidement.”

           “Taisez-vous ! Ou je vous bourre la gueule … bordel !”

            Bunky, mon basset alien, s’est réveillé et a grogné.

            A travers la jungle, un autre monstre insectoïde s’est écrasé, se dirigeant directement vers notre abri. En une fraction de seconde, Bunky s’est élancé sur le chemin du monstre et a commencé à ronger les tentacules internes. Le monstre a hurlé comme il l’a fait quand je suis tombé en le fuyant. Il a essayé de s’accrocher au basset, mais celui-ci se déplaçait si rapidement parmi les bras qui se tortillaient qu’ils n’ont pas pu l’attraper. En une minute, la moitié de la créature était dévorée, dix secondes plus tard ce n’était plus qu’une petite boule (Bunky semblait manger la chose exponentiellement plus vite). Puis le monstre avait disparu.”

            “Vous avez de la chance que cette créature vous aime,” a dit le capitaine Premidaire.

            “Un de quoi ?” Je fixais Bunky, ébahi, tandis qu’il se léchait les babines avec tristesse.

            “Cet animal.”

            “Comment savez-vous qu’il m’aime ?”

            “Je sens que je perds le contrôle. Le regret. Je n’ai jamais voulu qu’elle le fasse. Mais l’atmosphère me pèse. Je suis désolé Siana. Je vais tout arranger. Nous…” sa voix perdit de sa force et il recula en trébuchant. 

            Une heure plus tard, Premidaire dormait et la pluie avait cessé. Un lever de soleil éclatait à travers les vignes et les branches. La lumière étincelait et scintillait tandis que des gouttelettes tombaient des arbres. Peut-être commençais-je aussi à perdre la tête, ou peut-être était-ce le manque de sommeil, mais les couleurs ont commencé à se mélanger et à se brouiller, comme de la peinture étincelante étalée sur une toile. Cela m’a inquiété. Je devrais peut-être arrêter de questionner Preston Premidaire sur ma femme et les survivants. Je devrais peut-être me concentrer sur notre propre survie. Pendant un de ses moments de lucidité, je lui ai fait expliquer certaines des fonctions de ma tablette. Il m’avait montré une carte qui menait à une ville qui était censée être en construction depuis la première migration. Il m’a montré la ligne de train magnétique F.A.T. (Frictionless Automated Transport) que les machines ont construite à leur arrivée. S’il y avait des humains vivants de la première vague, ils devaient être dans la ville. J’ai chargé la carte. La ville était à 4000 kilomètre. Je devais faire 800 km tout seul jusqu’au F.A.T., puis… attendre un train ? Premidaire n’a pas pu m’expliquer comment fonctionne le système de transport. Nous aurions… nous aurions besoin de l’aide de… mes paupières commencent à… si nous ne contactons pas les gens d’ici, nous mourrons… nous…”

            Je me suis endormi. Quand je me suis réveillé en sursaut, la pluie avait cessé et la clairière était lumineuse. Avant même d’être pleinement conscient, je savais que Preston Premidaire était parti. Pourquoi… mais quand j’ai regardé autour de moi dans la clairière.

           “Non…”

            Preston Premidaire était pendu à un arbre.


Subscribe below:

Lost on Kepler 852-b (Chapter 4: Captain Premidaire)

(Pour lire la version française, cliquez ici.)

Background artwork by @huleeb (Lucid Dream)


            “Something hit us in the sky. Or…more likely…multiple things. Everything was chaos. Parts of the ship exploded. I couldn’t leave the pilot’s chamber but the door of my adjoining emergency landing pod opened. Instinctively, I jumped in and grabbed hold of a handle, since I knew from the I.M.C. manual that the interior would protect me against the force of the crash landing. There was a window looking out at the hull. I saw hundreds of bodies slamming against the ship’s interior. Sections of the ship were breaking off…”

            Captain Premidaire was slumped against a tree beneath a make-shift canopy I’d constructed using my sleeping bag and iron filament. We were taking shelter against a torrential, sleet-like, purple rain. Premidaire was having one of his lucid moments, which were becoming more and more rare, so I tried to gently guide him, again, to the question I was desperate to receive an answer to. I couldn’t ask him any questions that were too far from his thread of thinking, or else he’d degrade back into his state of mumbling confusion. Premidaire was steadily going insane and I had no idea how to stop his descent into madness.

            “And after the ship crashed, what happened?”

            “Screams. Horrible screams. Fire. Crawling through the wreckage. Then they came…”

            “Who came? You keep saying, they came. That insect-tentacle creature I mentioned? The one who digs holes? That monstrous thing?” Premidarie let out a high-pitched, maniacal laugh. He’d done this before. I grimaced because this meant he was most likely going to have one of his dementia episodes in ten to fifteen seconds. 

            “Those things? They just like fire. They’re the clean-up crew.” He laughed again, a higher-pitch tone. “They are nothing compared to what else is on this planet. Nothing. This planet is fighting back. Those insect things were there when…the rest were being led away, by them…”

            “How long ago since the crash?”

            “A week.”

            “That’s impossible. I was alone when I woke up. I would have died of thirst. You told me two days.”

            “If one of them found you, unconscious, they might of saved you.”

            “How?”

            “I don’t know. There’s something in the air. Time is different here. Everything is different here. And they…they sent us here to die.” Premidaire’s pupils became dilated and started trembling. It was now or never.

            “Who else survived?! Were there any women with you?! Did one of them have-”

            “I put everything in the GlobalDataBase before I left Earth. They will remember me. Feel the existence, no more force, they told me to fill out questions, put the Enregiste-Nanobots in my brain, stand in front of the camera, these were for history, they could make a copy, not the same, but close enough, the artist must create in darkness, everything is created from darkness, to find their light if there is the chance another…”

            I sighed. Another hour of his babbling. Then when he returned to silence, or fell asleep and woke up, I’d try again. I turned off the recording device in my tablet. In my frustration I turned away from Captain, who was still mumbling to himself, now whispering, “I have to take it again, but I also have to run away, feel desperate, hopeful desperation, fight this, run or stay, Siana my love, I…” It seemed to me that whatever sickness Premidaire was suffering from, he was unable to distinguish between emotions, memories, or abstractions when having an episode. It was like his subconscious was overtaking his consciousness. 

            “Ouch!” a rain droplet landed on my skin, burned, and sizzled, leaving a red disc-shaped wound. The rain droplets here are often toxic, like acid. Premidaire somehow knew this and had me construct our shelter when we heard a rumble in the night and the air become heavy with moisture. When Premidaire’s lucid and focusing on a task, he’s impeccable and efficient. You don’t get to become the captain of human’s second migration without being extremely effective in everything you do, which made the contrast with his incoherent grumblings all the more terrifying to observe. I turned to my side and saw the basset hound creature still sleeping in his nest.

            “Walter!” For a wild moment I thought the creature had spoken to me.

            “What!” The captain had grabbed my shirt. I was shocked: he had never escaped one of his trances so fast. Perhaps his mind was fighting back, knowing how much of our survival depended on him relaying me pertinent information.

            “There are…there are human-like aliens on this planet. Different kinds, races, cultures. They knew we were coming. They were waiting for us. The machines who scouted this planet told them everything about us. Some of them want to use us to leave this world, others to survive. That’s why they kept you alive, to learn about us, I don’t what their purpose is, but their sophisticated-.”

            “Are these aliens the ones you escaped from?”

            “No. I escaped from other things. These human-like aliens just didn’t want to take me. They said I was hopeless. The particles in the air, they affect everyone at different rates and in different ways. Humans faster than them. If the infection reaches a certain point, it’s too late, there’s only one antidote, and each member of their group has one emergency for themselves per lifetime.”

            “Per lifetime? What do you mean by…”

            “I wanted to stay with them. They wouldn’t let me.”

            “These alien-creatures took some humans and left others? Who else was left with you?”

            “Fifty-seven people.”

            “And they’re all dead except you?”

            “Yes, I saw half of them die, the other half went in a direction where no human could survive.”

            “And the humans that left…which were taken by these alien-humans? Did you see a woman amongst them whom-”

            “She’s right there! You can’t take her away! Your mistakes will-”

            “Shhh, shhh, something’s coming…” There was a clicking and crashing through the dense vines and trees.

            “You shouldn’t come here. Now the particles can infect you faster…”

            “Shut up! Or I’ll stuff your mouth god damn it!”

            Bunky, my alien basset hound, woke up and growled.

            Through the jungle another insect-weeping-willow monster crashed, heading directly towards our shelter. Within a split second Bunky darted into the monster’s path and started slash-gnawing on the inner tentacles. The monster screeched like it did when I fell running away from it. It tried to grab hold of the basset, but the basset was moving so rapidly amongst the squirming arms that they couldn’t catch him. Within a minute half the creature was consumed, ten seconds later it was a small ball (Bunky seemed to eat the thing exponentially faster). Then the monster was gone.”

            “You’re lucky one of those likes you,” said Captain Premidaire.

            “One of what?” I was staring at Bunky, in awe, while he dolefully licked his chops.

            “That animal.”

            “How do you know it likes me?

            “I feel myself losing control. The regret. I never wanted her to. But the atmosphere weighs down. I’m so sorry Siana. I’ll make everything right. We-” his voice lost its force and he stumbled back. 

            An hour later Premidaire was sleeping and the rain had stopped. A sunrise burst through the vines and branches. Light sparkled and glistened as droplets dripped from the trees. Maybe I was also starting to lose my mind, or maybe it was a lack of sleep, but the colors began mixing and blurring together, like sparkling smeared paint across a canvas. This made me worried. Perhaps I should stop questioning Preston Premidaire about my wife the and survivors. Perhaps I should focus on our own survival. During one of his lucid moments I had him explain some of the functions of my tablet. He had shown me a map that led to a city that was supposed to be under construction since the first migration. He pointed out the F.A.T. magnetic-train line (Frictionless Automated Transport) which the machines built upon their arrival. If there were any humans alive from the first wave, they’d be in the city. I loaded up the map. The city was 2500 miles away. I’d have to travel 500 miles on my own to the F.A.T., then…wait for a train? Premidaire couldn’t explain to me how the transport system works. We’d…we’d need help from…my eyelids are starting to…if we don’t contact the people here we die…we…”

            I fell asleep. When I woke up with a start the rain had stopped and the clearing was bright. Before even becoming fully conscious, I was aware that Preston Premidaire had left. Why…but when I looked around the clearing.

            “No…”

            Preston Premidaire was hanging from a tree.


Subscribe below: